tv Memoirs of a Secretary at War CSPAN January 19, 2014 10:00pm-11:16pm EST
questions of the risks and the benefits. we have all kinds of data about the benefits of firearms and defensive gun uses ranging into the millions per year. we don't hear about them because they are branching and no shots were fired. the current value of firearms chronicled by the centers for disease control and the crime victims survey. we could read the detailed in the book. my assessment of this coming away is that on balance we are better off if the sober and mature members of the black community have a choice of owning firearms for self protection. ..
this book in some ways gives voice to those people and those concerns, and hopefully will cause others in the community to at least engage the question at a more serious level than just the reflex reaction against guns that is sort of a caricature of what the actual conversation needs to be. >> host: certainly has given me rope to revisit my thinking about guns and with a more
historically informed perspective. thank you for that contribution. >> guest: thank you for your interview. >> next, robert gates at the national constitution center in philadelphia. he discusses his momentum moyer. "duty: memoirs of a secretary at war." in the book, mr. gates, who served as secretary of defense
under president george w. bush and president obama, talks about his management of the wars in afghanistan and iraq and shares stories about his relationship with the white house and congress. [applause] >> secretary gates, i want to thank you for being here, especially in light of the fact you recently had an injury. i know you're making a robust recovery, but having to wear a neck brace is surely complicated your getting here, and we thank you for making that effort. >> until i became secretary of defense, i had never broken a bone or had a surgery. february of 2008, i fell on the ice and broke this shoulder in three places, ten months later, putting a snow plow blade on a tractor, i pulled my tendon off this arm. my security guards came to the conclusion that al qaeda was no risk to me at all compared to
myself. and before we start, i'd like to say it is good to be back here at the center, and to apologize to the audience on my right for not turning in your direction, but the result of a broken neck is somewhat limited mobility of my head. >> well, let's -- that being said, let's get to your book, "duty: memoirs of a secretary at war." i found it a most striking account of your time under both president bush and president obama, not the least because it gave what i would call an almost real-time account of your enter changes with president obama and the former secretary of state, hillary clinton, as you and other very top members of the nation's security establishment, as you wrestled with the
difficulties on the ground in afghanistan. i'd like to talk to you at some length about your impressions of president obama, but before we get into that, i wanted to focus on a part of the book that hasn't gotten that much attention, but which i think is equally important, and that's your description of the situation in the government in the white house, when you took over as secretary of defense in december of 2006. you describe a dire situation in iraq. american troops are dying at increasing rates. the insurgents are gathering force. there's extreme explosive sectarian violence, and no apparent plan on the part of the united states government for coping with that. the takeaway from that part of the book is that we hadn't planned properly for the occupation, and that indeed it never occurred to military planners that we might be there
as long as we had. why were we so mistaken on that point? why did we miss that? >> guest: one of the concluding sections of the book is in effect on lessons learn about war, and one of the things that you'd think people would understand would be how frequently people who advocate going to war, and people who make decisions to go to war, almost always are convinced the war will be short. this year we'll celebrate the send ten area of world war i, a classic example of where everybody thought the war would be over by october or november, 1914. the problem in iraq in particular, and it really is true of both iraq and afghanistan -- that what began
as swift military victories, quickly degenerated into long and grinding wars. in the case of iraq, it was always believed it would be a short-term commitment, i think. it would be interesting to ask those who were participants in the decisionmaking, had they known in march three the country would at war in iraq for six or seven nor years, whether they would have made the decision they did. but this assumption that war would be short or that its end was right around the corner, afflicted the department of defense as badly as it did the decisionmakers themselves. and because everyone assumed that the war would be over quickly, there was a great reluctance inside the fence to spend significant sums of money
on equipment that might be needed to protect the troops, but that might be useful only in iraq or afghanistan. as i describe it in the book, the department of defense is organized to plan for war, not to wage war, and so the services dedicate all of their efforts, pretty up all of their efforts, to developing their long-range procurement plans, and then defending those plans in the budget process, regardless of what comes along. so people were reluctant to, for example, -- develop and fund the mine resistant ambush protected vehicles that saved so many lives and limbs, because that. particularly kind of vehicle was not in any plan for the army or the marine corps -- >> host: i'd like to ask you about that. one of the key themes in that portion of the book, seems to me, that the military planners
inside the beltway, civilian leaders inside the beltway, simply didn't adjust or respond to and in fact you do write, they did not adjust to changing situations on the ground in iraq. >> guest: that and the fact i also write that after the initial invasion there was a series of stunningly bad decisions and mistakes. >> host: i'd like to read a portion of the book, a situation that came across to me as a scandal louse, and i say this because you heap quite a bit of praise on president bush, and i think your critique of the president and the much reported critiques of president obama have missed the point in that they're part of the larger fabric in evaluation of both men, which is much more nuanced than we have gotten so far. let me read this portion which describes what i think is a scandalous situation. our fundamentally flawed and per
sis since assumption that they iraq would be about short caused problems on the ground and for the tropes. as the months stretch into years those at senior levels clung to their original assumption same unwilling to invest substantial dollars to provide the troops everything they needed for protection and success in their mission and to bring them home safely, and if wounded to provide them with the very best care. who wanted to spend precious dollars on equipment for today's troops that, after iraq, would just be surplus. so, for years in iraq, our troops traveled in light vehicles like humvees. the modern equivalent of a jeep. that even with armoring were vulnerable to weapons such as improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades and explosively formed projectiles. were people asleep at the switch? why did not not respond to
casualties increasing, what we were doing in iraq was not working. were they not visiting the country enough? were they getting bad information? why so much bureaucratic rescission stance to making changes. >> guest: i think they captain thinking the end of the war was right around the corner. throughout 2006, the commander in the field, until the fall of 2006, our commander in baghdad was still planning to draw down from 15 to 10 brigades by the end of 2006, and only realized toward the end of 2006 that wouldn't be possible. actually, the first person, i think, seriously to conclude that the strategy wasn't working was president bush. and i think that happened probably in the late spring or summer of 2006. there were several different reviews launched another our
strategy, including the most important one was probably led by the national security council staff, which then led to the president's decision to surge troops to get control of the security situation, particularly in baghdad. this is a case -- and i point it out -- it's been presented mostly in a negative light, but i don't think it's a negative consideration, that beth bush and obama -- both bush and obama pushed back against the generals. in the case of iraq in 2006, it was the civilian leadership that decided the strategy wasn't working, not the military, and when bush decided to support the iraq surge, he was opposed by the entire joint chiefs of staff, the chairman of the joint chiefs, the theater commander, the commander in baghdad, and the commander of central command in florida.
>> host: i must ask you, though, you can hardly characterize that as a brilliant insight. the entire country seemingly turned against the war because we were not doing well there. why did the generals -- why were they so late when everybody else defended this was not going well. >> guest: i wish i had an explanation for that. i wasn't there. i think that they -- i think they had concluded that their view was that more troops would aggravate the situation rather than help it. that it would let the iraqis off the hook in terms of assuming responsibility for their own security, and that it would -- and that the iraqis were expecting to see a reducing u.s. presence, not an increasing one. >> host: i'd like to did you one 0 question on this subject. you write in the book that general shinseki famously predicted at a congressional hearing that an occupation would
require -- this is before the invasion in march -- whenever it occurred -- that an occupation would require hundreds of thousands of troops. was he right? would that have been a better approach? >> guest: i think the initial -- this goes back to the mistakes i think were made after the original invasion. had the iraqi army not been disbanded -- which is one of those catastrophic mistakes, in my view, turning 400,000 men, who didn't know anything else except how to shoot, into the civilian economy with no support for their families, was just a formula for disaster. if those troops -- if we had done our best to keep the iraqi army coherent, but with different leadership, then you probably would not have seen the looting that took place in
baghdad and elsewhere and might have had better civil war rather than the sectarian violence that was so bad by 2006. so the number of troops required after the invasion in part depended on making smart decisions about what we would do next in iraq. i said in a speech in may of 2003, just six weeks after the invasion, that now that we had overthrown saddam, it reminded me of the situation where the dog catches the car. now what do you do with it? and i said at the time, if we have more than 100,000 troops in iraq for more than a few moms, we will be in -- a few months we'll be in serious trouble.
and i said i thought that the political part of this would be far more difficult than the original invasion. so i think if different decision had been made in that period after the original invasion, then you might have had a different outcome, but we end up with what we did, and people seemed unwilling to stick their neck out to say, that was a really stupid decision. debatication, like nobody ever read a book about the dee naziication, and if you ran the power plant you had to be a member of the party. that didn't mean you were him her's best friend. in iraq, how had to be a member of the baath party if your were a school teacher. so being oblivious to those things led to amazingly stupid decisions. >> host: wasn't just a matter of their military infrastructure being dissolved but the civilian
bureaucracy as well which disappeared overnight and left them with absolutely nothing. >> guest: it goes to the equipment question you asked me. secretary rumsfeld famously said to a soldier, you go to war with the army you have, and that's true. but what i add is, then you better make it into the army that you need as fast as you can. and that is what i think we did not do. >> host: i have to ask you this. you mentioned in the book -- i think i have this right -- your good friend, brent scowcroft, a senior national security official in bush 41, i think, the first bush administration, opposed the invasion in iraq, and i was wondering -- you never really address that issue as far as you're concerned in this book. had you been part of the administration then, would you have supported the iraq war?
>> i say in the last chapter, sort of summing up and reflections, that i don't know. it's hard for me to say what i would have advocated in 2003. i, like a lot of people in the congress and most other countries in the world, initially all accepted the argument that saddam had weapons of mass destruction. that's hundred security council resolution 1441 got passed. intelligence services of even russia and china thought he had these weapons. and so in that speech that i referred to a few weeks after he made it, said i had supported the original decision for that reason. but i say in the book, toward the end, that i had argued
strongly against going to baghdad in 1991, in the first gulf war, because that would have meant that -- to try and overthrow the regime to get saddam, would have meant occupying two-thirds of iraq, and then it would be our problem. and so we were u -- unanimous mouse in the first bush administration for opposing going to baghdad and we took a lot of grief for it nor not completing the job. we tended not to get that criticism after march 2003 anymore, but i argued maybe i would have made the same argument i madin' 1991 about not going to baghdad and might have been far more skeptical of the intelligence case that he had weapons of mass destruction, than others were around the table, just because i have a
pretty good view of both the strength and the weaknesses of our intelligence capabilities. so, i think it's -- you know, to be honest, think it's hard for me to say what would have advocated in 2003 with tenneers of hindsight. >> host: could you talk about your effort to get these more hardened vehicles for the troops in iraq? you were surprised to learn that there were these vehicles in development, mraps, mine resist stand protected vehicles that, as you say, went a long way toward reducing casualties. how did you get that done? i noted that senator biden was a target of much of your criticism but helped you a lot in that regard. >> yes, and i give him credit for it in the book. actually, it's a lesson i tried to hammer home to the senior civilian and military leaders in terms of paying attention to
when they read criticism in the newspapers, not to go into a defensive crouch but to go find out whether the story is true or not. it was a newspaper series in the "washington post" that put me on to the problem with wounded warriors at walter reed that led me to fire the secretary of the army. it was newspaper story where i first read about these mraps, heavily armored vehicles, and i read in the u.s.a. today that the marines had 300 of these vehicles in anbar province, and in over a thousand attacks not single marine had been killed who was riding in one of these vehicles. i got some briefings on it, and i wanted to buy these things in large numbers, and there was no one in the department of defense at a senior level, either civilian or in uniform, who supported that decision. and i basically said, well, we're going to do it. and this is one place i'm very
critical of the congress in this book, but this is one place where the congress did the right thing and they did it in a timely way, and they gave me all the money i asked for, and we ended up buying 27,000 of these vehicles for iraq and afghanistan. and one of the measures that meant the most to me dish mean, there are lots of statistics out there in terms of lives saved and limbs that weren't lost, but when i first became secretary and visited the army's burn unit, at brook army hospital in san antonio, it was absolutely full because most of those young men had been in humvees that had blown up and became funeral pyres for them. by the time i was within six months of leaving as secretary, the burn unit was nearly empty. and so ultimately everybody came
around to the fact this is a really good idea. let's get toget on with it. probably because i said so as secretary of defense, but there was a lot of opposition because these vehicles weren't in anybody's long-term procurement plan, and they were more worried about what they would do with them after the war than what good they might do in the war. my attitude is, particularly when you're dealing with the lives of young men and women, when you're in a war, you're all in, and whatever it takes to protect them, whatever it takes to give them the tools to do the job and then come home safely, you make that investment, and if you have all this stuff surplussed at the end of the war so be it. >> host: i found that part of the book one of the most disturbing parts because it was available to the military to save lives, yet for narrow reasons of bureaucratic agendas
it was not implemented. how do you fix a problem like that going forward? seems to me that's cultural. it's a leadership issue. i'll give you another example that is even more shocking, in my view. the med-evac time -- the time for med-evac in iraq was an hour. called the golden hour. that a helicopter could be dispatched, pick up a soldier who had been wounded and get him to hospital within an hour. in afghanistan it was two hours. and i said, i think it should be an hour. just like in iraq. and both uniformed and civilian senior officials came to me and had all these statistics about how the death rates were comparable for med-evac in iraq and afghanistan despite the time difference and so on, and, therefore, because it was
statistically pretty much a wash, it wasn't worth the investment to put additional resources into it. my reaction was a pretty simple one. if i'm other soldier have been blown up, want a helicopter there as quickly as possible. i said, we're just going to do it. and so we sent more helicopters, several additional field hospitals. i made that decision in january of 2008 or 2009 -- i can't remember which -- and by july, something like 80% of our medical evacuations were taking place in less than 40 minutes. but it was -- the problem in part, it seemed to me, was that the people who were in charge of these things weren't looking at them from the soldiers' standpoint. they were looking at it from sort of 30 or 40,000 feet.
the other problem in the pentagon that i talk about that relates to all of these issues, is that there are so many different elements of the department of defense who have to be on board, who have to agree to move anything forward, that any one of those elements, whether it's the money people or the technology people or the budgeteers or whatever, can basically slow down or stop something from happening. only the secretary of defense has the authority to override everybody in the building and say, we're just going to do it. >> host: in other words, it requires a leader with a considerable will power and commitment to getting this thing done. i want to ask you -- >> guest: there's nothing like getting the attention of the senior military and the pentagon as a whole, like firing some
people. >> host: which you did. a lot of. >> guest: i know people -- my attitude was, in the case of both walter reed and the nuclear issue -- which is back in front of us when i fired both the chiefs of staff and the secretary of air force -- i didn't fire them for not knowing about the problem. i fired them because once they knew about it, they didn't take it seriously enough. that's the kind of accountability needs to be exercised more frequently in washington. >> host: since you brought up the issue of firing, how did you feel about losing stanley mcchrystal. >> guest: at first -- i felt he committed a terrible error, and i sayso in the book. giving access to this reporter, and mcchrystal is probably one of to the most effective combat generals we have had since world war ii. both as commander in afghanistan and as commander of the joint special operations unit in iraq and afghanistan.
he did a lot of damage to our enemies and people who were killing our troops. but the world of politics and the media was a new battle space for general mcchrystal. and he was a brand new second lieutenant in that realm, and as effective as he was in the command position, he stepped out of line in some of this interviews, but i felt, when the report -- when the article came out about him, with the quotes that seemed to disparage the vice president and the national security adviser and others, my worry was that if he let -- if he was relieved, that we might lose the war in afghanistan right then and there. we now had -- by that time we had the timeline, the president had decided, which i supported,
of being all out of -- all combat troops out by the end of 2014, and he got long well with karzai. knew the battle plan and the brigade command, and i worried that finding a replacement would take months to get confirmed and then more months to get acclimated and up to speed. and so i was deeply worried that relieving mcchrystal would be a huge setback in the war. and then it was the president, in discussing whether to relieve mcchrystal, who said, how about dave petraeus to take over. and immediately -- i give the president a lot of credit for the idea because it hadn't even occurred to me, but that alleviated a lot of my concerns, because petraeus knew the battle plan and the brigade commanders and new karzai and had a good relationship with him and so on. so i felt like we really wouldn't lose much time in the
war if mcchrystal were replaced by petraeus, and i told -- as i say in the book, i wish stan had given me something to defend him with, that the story was wrong, but as i write in the book, it was sort of like he was at west point again and just saying, no excuse, sir. and so under those conditions, as i write in the book, i thought the president had no choice but to relieve him. >> host: i found that part a little puzzling. there was a history, as you point out -- for those in the audience who don't know, stanley mcchrystal was a special operations commander in iraq and afghanistan, was a war hero, had caused -- taken out of battle this very feared al qaeda commander, zarqwi, and was instrumental in capturing saddam
hussein, a revered soldier, whose staff in afghanistan made some very unfortunate and candid remarks to a rolling stone reporter. when we was called out on the carpet -- this is after, i gather, he had made some other unfortunate remarks in london -- not sensational but, rather, off the reservation and not closely tracking with the president's preferred policy positions -- making the president mad. he had already had a couple of strikes against him. when this came up you said that general mcchrystal didn't take any steps to defend himself. even though there was possibly an argument that he could have used. why? >> guest: well, i think -- first of all, i think stan was -- i'm assuming some things here because i never really had a detailed conversation with stan
about why he didn't defend himself, only that he didn't, but i think that he knew he had made the decision to allow this nontraditional reporter to be a part of his entourage. i think he was stunned by the article and he may not -- an army inspector general report suggested he may not have known about a lot of the statements made by his staff to this reporter, and so i think he didn't quite know how to respond. he didn't want to throw his staff under the bus, and so i think he did what he saw as the ethical thing for a commander to do under the circumstances, which was to take the hit. >> host: one portion of this book -- >> guest: let me just say, just to -- on one of your observations, there was a lot of
ill will toward general mcchrystal in the white house because during the fall of 2009, when we were debating options for afghanistan, including whether to go what if he had recommended is 40,000 additional troops or other options with smaller numbers that had ban advocated by the vice president and others. there were a number of leaks and public statements by the military, including by general mcchrystal, that made it appear to the white house that -- and to the president -- that the military was trying to box him in and force his hand to adopt their option in terms of the 40,000 troops. i tried to convince the president that -- i could see where this suspicion came from, because of these leaks and public statements. the president thought, and others around him, vice
president biden and others, saw it as an orchestrated campaign by the military leadership. i tried to argue it was not a campaign, not orchestrated, that if it had been orchestrated, they'd have been a lot smarter about it. but i was unsuccessful in that. but it did lead to an undercurrent of ill will toward him that ex-when this article then came out about six months later, he didn't have a cushion at the white house. >> host: that was the last straw. i think as you write in your book, that actually you describe this as a pretext, that the vice president used to have mcchrystal fired. >> guest: the way i describe it is that i think that mcchrystal handed his opponents in the white house the ammunition with which to get rid of him. >> host: i want to talk to you very briefly about your political battles in washington and on capitol hill. you do not paint a very flattering picture -- this is
not big news -- of our political process in washington. what struck me was your very detailed accounts of interactions with democratic and republican members of congress who, behind closed doors, would tell you that the policies that you were promoting were actually things that had to be done senator be done or were going in the right direction, but when they faced lights and spoke to the press, there was a totally opposite description of the situation and they were highly critical of the president and of the pentagon. you've been in washington or you've been in government a long time. do you think that our dysfunctional politics are any different from the way they've ever been? >> guest: well, television contributes. i say in book that when the red light on the television camera would go on in a hearing, it had the effect on members of congress of a full moon on we're
werewolves, and i guess the way i would put it and the way i write about it in the book, our politics in the country, as this center makes so clear, have been rough and tumble from the very beginning, and quite vituperative. even george washington in his second term name for a lot of hits, as did all of his successors. but what is different now, and what has happened over the last, i would say, quarter of a century, is that we have lost the -- the congress has lost the able to do the people's business. so it's one thing to argue and fight and say terrible things about each other. that's been going on for our whole history. but the inability to pass legislation to deal with serious problems, i think, is a relatively new phenomenon, and some of it is institutional, has
to do with gerrymandering and the fact that in the house, maybe only 50 or 60 seats are now competitive and so the only elections that really matter in a lot of places are the primaries where you have to appeal to your party's base, whether you're democrats or republicans, and what we had for the first half of my career were what i would describe as a large number of -- i'll just take the senate -- of senators who were center left, center right, who figured out ways to put together coalitions and get important legislation passed, and the list will be familiar to all of you. but these bills -- bridge-builders were people like bill cullen and bill bradley, jack danforth, john warner. david boshen, sam nunn. republicans and democrats, and
maybe the last one to leave because of frustration was olympia snow. so you have this large number of people, most of whom could have been re-elected forever, who left in disgust because they couldn't get anything done, and i think that's the new phenomenon over the last couple of decades that is especially worrying. now, the other theme in this book -- i think this is an important point to make -- despite my frustrations and even my anger at the congress, reality is i got a lot of things done with the congress. most of my predecessors, if they were lucky, could get two or three or four big military procurement programs cancelled that were overcost, overdue, or no longer relevant. i cut nearly three dozen, and ended up getting congressional approval or acquiescence in all of them. i cut almost $200 billion out of
the pentagon overhead, and even eliminated a combatant command, and i got the congress to support me on that. partly because i had enormously strong support of president obama and a veto threat behind me, but it was also working across the aisle with members of congress, of both parties, and figuring out how to move the agenda forward. so i argue in the end of the book, we do have these institutional problems such as gerrymandering what i can consider the weakening of the role of congress in governance because of the weakening of committee chairs and other things. but end of the day you can begin to, i think, address the paralysis -- not necessarily the polarization but the paralysis by people just -- by people at the white house and people in the congress beginning to treat
each other more civilly. by people being willing to listen and take ideas from the other side, of not demonizing the other side. of not distorting the facts purposely. i n think there are bunch of things just in terms of the way people treat each other in washington, that could change the tone and the reason -- the chairman of the house armed -- house foreign affairs committee, when i first became secretary, a few months in, told me that my arrival had been important because i changed the tone of the way the debate was being carried on in iraq and other things. so i was able to make washington work, but the way you make it work is through the way you treat people. >> host: since we're on the subject of politics and we are running out of time quickly, want to ask you, you mention
deep in the book, there's a little description of a phone call you got from the senate democratic leader, hari -- heirry reid, who wanted the defense department to spend money on research of irritable ball syndrome and this is while you were dealing with wars in iraq and afghanistan. there's a big day general here in deploying certain metaphors and i'm going to try to avoid that. how did that conversation go? well, i very politely told him i would look into it. he came out yesterday and was very critical of the book to which my response was, you know, it's just a fact of life that members of congress vote on things they haven't even read. so, -- [applause] >> well, as they say, you have to pass the bill to find out what's in it.
>> host: he actually called you at one standpoint asked you whether you'd be interested in running with president obama as his vice presidential candidate. how did that go. >> guest: one of the more bizarre conversations i've ever had. he called up and -- we were talking about something else and then he said, you know issue was largely responsible for getting -- talking president obama into running for president. i heard that from a lot of people on the hill. and he said that there's no candidate for vice president. how long have you been a registered republican? i said, well, i'm actually not a registered republican. he said, well, where do you stand on abortion? and i said, i don't have a stand on abortion. and somehow that has never come into the national security arena. he said, how long were you an academic? i said not all that long. he said, well, something may come of this or nothing, but i
just wanted to check. and i hung up the phone, and i just started to laugh. i said, that is really weird. and as i say in the book, never told anybody about it because i didn't think anyone would believe me. >> host: but you did end up working for the president nonetheless. i wanted to -- one serious issue that's been raised by this book, and i think affects the way the government functions issue that came up early on in coverage of the book, was a lot of hand-wringing about these conversations that you had with president obama and the focus was always on the conversations with president obama, not with president bush -- but you revealed much there as well -- were held in confidence, that -- indeed, the president often invokes executive privilege with congress to prevent exactly this kind of information from coming out in the public so that there can be a free flow of ideas and a kind of free exchange of
information. how did you work through the ethics of that? i came away thinking this is actually a public service, that people learn a lot about the way their senior government leaders make very difficult decisions, both republican and democrat. but you were disclosing something, and i have no doubt that both presidents didn't anticipate that this would be in a book. how did you work through that? >> guest: well, i think -- first of all i think modern presidents have pretty realistic expectations about what will be written, but that said, i think from my standpoint, what was point -- a couple of things that were important. the first is if you actually read the become the conversations i describe almost entirely paint these presidents in a positive light, because it shows them pushing back against
the military, asking hard questions, not being -- not allowing. thes to be spoon-fed information and not just acquiescing because some guy with four stars on his shoulder said we ought to do thus and so. so shows these presidents doing what i think americans would hope their commander in chiefs would do... their commander in chiefs would do. and it underscores that these two presidents, just like almost all of their predecessors, have disagreed with the military at various times and made decisions that the military had not recommended. the second piece of this is, this book is dedicated to the men and women of the u.s. armed forces and i wrote this book in substantial measure for the troops and their families. one of the things i wanted them to see under both of these
wasidents and in both iraq and i wanted them to see what the washington battle space looked like. they knew what i iraq and afghanistan looked like. and i wanted them to have some insight in the real world what was going on in washington as big issues associated with and to give them a sense of the passion and the amount of time spent debating these issues and the decisions they would make and i think it is a realistic portrayal of the war that was being fought in washington at the same time they were being fought in iraq and afghanistan. >> and the the final point, people's memories are short especially in washington, but the reality is all through since 2010, senior white house
staffers were leaking but the president was thinking, but his conversations were, his criticisms of the military, and so on and so forth on a routine basis in the newspaper, so the notion that what i described in the book as the president's growing reservations about the decisions he had made is absolutely no news. the newspapers were full of that information all through 2010 and the first part of 2011. >> i do agree there are some descriptions about bush and president obama are often very laudatory that there is quite a bit of critical commentary as well and one portion of the book strikes me very much in that vein. to take president obama act task for being what i would characterize as an uninspiring military leader. he didn't bring enthusiasm to
his role as the commander in chief especially with regards to the afghanistan war. and i think you had a conversation with rahm emanuel where you made that point but the soldiers needed to hear that the president was behind the as you called it the mission. so that is -- and you true that conclusion with your interactions with him in the council's. >> in trying to weigh this out and balance it, i supported every single one of president obama's decisions on afghanistan including up to the decision to seek the strategic agreement who would keep the force until this year but there were two aspects of the war in afghanistan that troubled me. one was the president's
suspicion of the motives of the senior military particularly when it came to their recommendations about afghanistan, and the second was what you described. as i told him when i met with him, i don't mind that the president speaks out on exit strategies and so on would, but the troops need to hear from their commander, the person who is sending them in harm's way that their cause is just and noble and the mission is important for the country and therefore the sacrifice is worth while. in the two and a half years i worked for president obama he only did that once or twice, and i think that is one of the responsibilities of the commander in chief when he plays in harm's way that he be willing
to speak publicly as to why that is important and why the potential sacrifices are worthwhile. >> did you ever try to merge this with the president yourself? >> i raised it directly with rahm and said the president has to take ownership of this war. and on a few occasions i mentioned it to the president that he ought to go say a word about why it's important to do this, but the interesting thing is once he made this very difficult decision in november of 29, which he overrode the political recommendation as vice president and all of the political advisers to approve this surge, there never was other than the initial speech at west point on december 1st, there really wasn't any kind of the white house effort over the
ensuing months for them to be any kind of a campaign in the american public to tell them why those decisions are important and why the cause was important. >> one last question. you mentioned in the book that you had urged the senior white house staff not to leak out information about a raid to kill osama bin laden and of course the information leaked out within five hours. who leaked the information? >> i tell people first of all the department of defense wrote the book on north leaking. so i'm not trying to pretend the defense department is innocent in this category, although the defense department is very good about holding secrets, military plans, and tactics and techniques. but it put its troops minute set risk. so in this case my belief is --
i will describe the scene. we are at the very end of our time in the situation room. we know that bin laden has been killed and he's back in jalalabad and he's on his way to a watery grave and we are about to break up as the president is going upstairs to address the nation and tell them about this extraordinary success with. and i said look what we used these tactics and techniques every night in afghanistan going after al qaeda and italian leaders so it's important that everybody agrees that all we are going to say is that we killed him and not go into any details about the operation and how we did and as you say i right in the book that lasted about five hours. and everybody agreed after i made this little package, everybody agreed like little kids we did our blood oath kind of thing we wouldn't do this and
lasted about five hours. i believe that they primarily came from the white house and the cia who just couldn't wait to brag about how good this had been. >> but you pointed out -- >> and then i think about two weeks later the defense probably started to china in. >> but you write that there's a significant operational downside to doing that because they're made the was being done every night in afghanistan and an iraq to apprehend and remove what you call the battle space called the al qaeda commanders and taliban people there's a significant cost to that.
coping with the casualties and the responsibility for that and that part of the clock i highly recommend that people focus on that. i think i am blonde and candid in describing the mistakes that others make. the dysfunctional chain of command problem in afghanistan to continue longer than i should have where the u.s. commander in afghanistan actually didn't have the command over all of the american troops serving in afghanistan were.
and i took too long and i finally fixed it and i took too long to get there. that is one example their reelection campaign of the allied air how did that happen? >> first of all, he may have his shortcomings that he should have kept those going on in his own capital so the idea that we could do this, and him not know that we were trying to get rid of it is pretty naive in my view and so when you see all of these problems that he creates for us
chain of command doesn't include the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff nor does it include the vice president. it goes from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commander. he's one of only two. he is the president's senior military adviser and he's the chairman of the joint chiefs, he has no direct command authority and i would say both president bush and president obama including the chairman of the time that they wanted and in my
experience, and i watched two different chairmen under two different presidents and i never saw either of them were the president tried to intimidate them or sort of dampen their views by being sarcastic or harsh or solving or intimidating in any way the president's despite the fact that they both disagreed with the chairman of member of occasions were very respectful and gave them all kinds of time to get the most blunt possible advice and from my senior military officials to
decide whether to extend the military tours in iraq and afghanistan from 12 to 15 months of i was working with the military and trying to decide in a very difficult decision he and my senior adviser comes to me at one point and says the troops know you have to make this decision and they think that you are anwr asshole for not making it among the senior military and i believe that i have a very good relationship and that they would disagree on more than one occasion as an example with and
i encouraged where they would be honest and candid and i think any secretary of defense or president who does not want that kind of candor is making it terrible and frankly dangerous. >> there is endless frustration about president bush and obama on the joint chiefs chairman on a number of occasions. >> what it was a number of other senior military, and their frustration and patience wasn't over what the senior military would tell them and the situation room or local office or even an open testimony. it is what they would go out and say in public speeches or television interviews and things like that, that is what got under both of the presidents scam. >> seems there is a difficult
line to draw. this is a democracy and citizens need and expect a certain level of transparency and information from the leaders and yet if a military leader is off the reservation and pursuing and promoting the policy agenda that differs with the white house it seems that could cause tremendous difficulties. >> it's not an agenda that differs from the white house, it is speaking out about things that in some way or another of limit the president's options or telegraph consequences that may be the president would rather keep private during a period of deliberation. one of the things i write about at the end of several military relationships is the consequences of senior military speaking out too often in areas which are not necessarily the direct responsibility or in terms of pre-empting the
president. >> i have a question which book tour interview have you enjoyed the most, charlie rose or john stuart? of course the answer now has to be this stop. [laughter] >> let's just say that the interviews with jon stewart and john rose were somewhat different in nature. [laughter] but both were enjoyable. >> do you think the united states should adopt a policy of national service in the draft? >> i believe if i could wave a magic wand of what i would favor is required national service. i believe that every young
person in america between the ages of 18 to 28 or 25 or whatever ought to work this than the year or two or three in the military providing national service, of giving back to the country something for what they've been given. we hear so much in this country about our rights as citizens and we hear so little about our obligations as citizens and so whether it is tutoring in inner cities or working in hospitals teach for america a new version of the civilian conservation corps, there's a host of different things young people could do for some period of time and, you know, for example if you volunteer for the military you have to commit for three years that maybe you'd get paid
significantly more than the other areas probably because of the rest and so on. and where i am torn is whether such a service should be required or whether it should be voluntary. but the voluntary piece of it would involve some measure of pressure in the sense that you would be if you have not performed national service, you would be significantly disadvantaged in admissions for universities in the hiring process for jobs that in other words this would come to be seen as a moral and ethical obligation on the part of a young person and if you chose not to serve, it would weigh against you and some of the choices in your life, but i strongly believe that there
ought to be -- to would find the military leadership is totally against the draft, and i think i share that, but i think it ought to be broadened, the service ought to be broad for everybody. >> last question for you. as you are looking to the future what do you see as the greatest threat to the security of the united states? >> in all honesty, i think that the greatest immediate threat to the united states is in fact the paralysis that we have seen in the two square miles that encompass capitol hill in the white house. if we can't begin seriously to address any -- the problems that we face whether it is education or the immigration or were the deficit or the national debt, and host of other problems, none
of those problems can be solved in the span of one presidency or one congress so the way we could make headway against those problems is through bipartisan solutions that can be sustained through more than one presidency in congress, and if we can't begin to get past this paralysis in washington, then i think we are in serious trouble. if you want to talk about national security issues i think we would have to worry about cyber and about a terrorist in this country with a weapon of mass destruction and worry about iran, we have to worry about north korea and we have to worry about something inadvertently creating a crisis in the south china sea that are out there on the horizon as far as i'm concerned as significant problems, but the biggest challenge we face is getting our own house in order. >> secretary, thank you. it's very interesting.
>> if you knew anything about the civil war, one of the most famous was nason what and she supposedly said that harris is not only a war governor but is a fighting governor. he was born in franklin county tennessee which is a couple counties to the west in 1889. he was the son of a fairly prosperous farmer in the last of his big family and he had a brother who was an attorney and moved to west tennessee they were just opening up in that time period that became a politician and was a jacksonian democrat certainly west tennessee was the flight of territory that became a slave owner himself, quite a successful lawyer in his time and was elected as a late
senator and his initial has a politician was one to dispute it will launch what proviso which was a suggestion by a congressman in 1847 that the properties and territories acquired as a result of the mexican war should be organized as feed states as opposed to thus leave states or divide among the missouri compromise and said that created a lot of excitement in the south and he spoke out on that at that time and he later became a congressman from his district in west tennessee and then later became the governor of tennessee who was elected in 1947i ron ackley succeeding andrew johnson who was the most prominent union and governor harris became a prominent secessionist. governor harris invoked that power to have tennessee declared independent in 1861.
it's tennessee never seceded in a matter-of-fact the declaration of independence as it were that tennessee enacted sada we are not expressing opinion on the extract doctrine but we are invoking on the more ancient rite of revolution and so harris invoked that right on behalf of the state of tennessee, but in doing so he really trample on the aspects because the constitution had several references to its relation, the states' relations with the united states and governor harris basically amended the tennessee constitution in a way that violated the amendment provision in the tennessee constitution. i ron ackley , he felt like she was vindicating the south rights under the united states constitution but by doing so he would be trampled on the tennessee constitution.
in a positive sense, tennessee was bound up in a terrible controversy in the late 1870's and the early 18 etds and the state ran up millions and millions of dollars of debt to build railroads. there were some administrations immediately after the civil war, and it was a political controversy of extraordinarily bitter nature. today they don't have any idea that that went on and rightly so. and he brokered roi the compromise so to speak to take tennessee out of that controversy over the debt. it linder on for a little while but he was the moving force in etd to that we moved that has a source of controversy and that really was a service to the state in a positive sense. he also i think ably represented
the state pretty well in the senate as far as patronage and things of that nature which is what the senator did when. he never lost an election also on a couple of occasions he bowed down before he had the opportunity to lose. he was elected a state senator in 1847 and then he died in 1897 in that after being a state senator he was again a congressman. he was elected governor and he had a run as governor in the 1850's because andrew johnson was stronger politically than he was. after the civil war when he had a cross on his head because he was a confederate governor and he went to mexico and he lingered they're a couple years, came back and leave it so low but slowly the conservative
element in tennessee as it was true across the south and that time period reading and the ascendancy and he had connections and he had influence and he had prestige and having been the ultimate conservative governor because he had led tennessee out of the union. and in those days the united states senators were elected by the legislators. they were not directly related as they are today. so he had his politics in order and he was elected by the state senator in 1876 to take on in 1977. assessing he is most known for in history now is the very famous quote that he issued or the very famous response that he issued to the call for federal troops after fort sumter. the federal grant called on tennessee for the regimental volunteers to suppress the
rebellion in this house and governor harris replied tennessee will not lend any troops for the purpose of the conversion but if necessary to vindicate her rights. he saw the constitution in a certain way and he was willing on the battlefield to put his life on the line to indicate that. in retrospect, he was wrong. there was not the rise of the secession and tennessee would have been better off staying in the union, but he followed what he thought was the right thing even though in retrospect it turned out to be not so. >> for more information on the recent visit to chattanooga tennessee and the other cities visited by the local content of vehicles, go to c-span.org/localcontent.
>> andrew graybill recalls the massacre of 1873 his book is "the red and the white." this 40 minute program starts now on book tv. [applause] >> thanks so much for having me. i'm grateful to the c-span's crew for being on the scene as well. it is an honor to be here this evening and my sister put me out when i set eyes going to invite myself to give a talk at the tattered cover an independent bookseller. there are a lot of ways i could structure what i could share with you about my book but i decided in the end it might be easiest to just to explain how i came to write this. so that takes us back to the summer of 2006. i should say that i loved being a historian and i have since i graduated with. but that was